Editor, The News:
Happy New Year, George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
I feel compelled to bring this matter to your attention. Golden Ears park is located in Maple Ridge, which is about 45 minute drive from where I live in New Westminster.
Over the past 30 years or so, I have been hiking year-round in this park and some years ago I was a volunteer there. I did this for almost five years. I cleared trails, assisted with re-building trails, as in monitoring run-off so the trail was not washed away.
Over the years, I have hiked on all trails in this park and would like to continue to do so.
So, to my surprise, I drove over there on Christmas Eve, only to find the park closed. This is the second time, and after much searching on the Internet, I was told the park is closed because there is no one to clear the streets.
Let’s look at the economics of this closure. Let’s assume there is no money to get staff to clear the streets. So, you save some money during winter, and unless you plan to close the park permanently, the money you will have to spend in spring and summer will be more than the money you saved during the winter closure.
During spring, there will be blow-down to clear, trails to repair, bathrooms to upgrade, parking lots to clear. I am having a great deal of trouble seeing how winter closure will save money.
Let’s take the other possibility: road safety. Winter driving is a challenge throughout Canada, and that includes from Vancouver to Chilliwack and beyond, and driving through parkland adds its own challenges.
Anyone who drives to Golden Ears park knows to drive with caution even in the summer. I don’t see how closing the park will control driver behaviour.
To my knowledge and hiking experience, Golden Ears park is the closest ‘forest’ that we have for hiking accessibility year-round. This park even offers an accessible interpretive trail (we are proud of that).
I don’t know how much hiking you do, but there is nothing like the smell of wet forest, being enveloped by majestic cedars and hemlocks and the feel of the soft trail with every step.
We are told to exercise for our health, we are told the brain works better on nature, but it is difficult to achieve all this when our parks are closed to us.
It was mentioned that I could always park at the gate and walk in, but if I wanted to walk on roadway I would walk around my city. There is nothing like the forest floor.
Here are my suggestions: bring back the $5 parking and have this money go into the upkeep of the park (I have no interest in discussing previous government decisions, we must move on).
I can no longer volunteer in the park, but put out a call for volunteers. There might be some groups out there who would love to volunteer, and I know this is a challenging one, but what about people from the youth detention?
The core point here is, the park should be opened year-round.